Jetpack 2 was initially promised by Adam Pedersen to arrive just a few years after Jetpack's appearance in 1993, was then officially announced in 2008 with a release date slated... well a little sooner than 2017 let's assume. While the first game was a basement build by an idle teenager, the second "message in a bottle" was eventually set to sail by a single dad (of a very adorable little girl) in his fourties unable to secure a publisher but at least garnering a very indie-sized budget on Kickstarter. This might remind someone of Tom Hall's Worlds of Wander, another recent attempt at a make-yer-own-platformer for the masses.
So Jetpack was actually very successful in terms of circulation: apparently over a million downloads since 1997, though that was also near the end of its life as a commercial title, perhaps also as a commercially viable one. Surely a lot of fans, having underwent the same time-thrust transmogrification as Pedersen, would still remember the happy times they'd had with it? Why wasn't the project flooded with pious tithes with the collection bag cruising the aisles? I'm not making this any central focus point here but we're looking at what I assume, for most people, was an arcadey kids' game whose unique selling point was its incredibly simple-to-use level editor... to make more arcadey levels with. It's exactly the kind of game that generation has collectively outgrown since then, isn't it?
If someone's totally clueless as to what I'm going on about, see the recent TAS for a pithy and entertaining demonstration.
Scouring every samey nook collecting items for points certainly has to work hard to make friends on this side of the millenium with those of us born on the other. To win me over, the quality is of supreme importance. The quality of the average level in Jetpack 2, with all its new appendages, is at best on par with the first game. And it's all over the place! There are a few in there that I couldn't believe were exactly as pointless as borne by the first skeptical scowl. Just the kind of hash you can expect if you have to commission the general public with the gameplay. What's worse, to continue with the campaign, you just have to keep playing those levels and picking up the idols since ignoring them leads to annoying roadblocks. There isn't even a semblance of a proper difficulty curve, there's a total absence of any tangible QA of the kind you would expect of a game's base offering.
Yet at the same time, the levels it set sail with are but the dorsal fin of the killer whale. There's right about nothing stopping you from recreating and playing the whole first game in the second (in fact, that particular box has been ticked already). When you take the other fork in the main menu, you're greeted by the familiar-and-not sight of the static level editor view. This time, to become truly comfortable within in, there are plently of ropes to get tangled with. This is a concomitant of all the new features: foreground/background elements, layers, free alignment, visual themes, rotations, groups, wrapping... it's a heck of a lot more engaging for the artists out there if you're down for a deep dive. There's even a script language that can do dog-knows-what! Most of the levels, as you can expect, never make use of the more advanced features—in some part, no doubt, due to their late implementation. It's difficult to imagine what the game is really capable of in hands equally capable.
With great power comes great responsibility; the path to making levels with the same old baseline playability is increasingly fraught with perditious temptations. Here's a few examples: the levels can get really cluttered making it stupidly difficult to plan your moves in advance when you can't even find where a particular teleporter's exit is, or struggling to even see all the gems; Since it's much easier to hide things, cheap traps will cause a few splat-against-windshield types of moments, but luckily people mostly restrained themselves from conscious beings-a-dick; You're also able to employ a "fog of war" effect in your levels that makes areas other than the one you're currently in vanish completely, which can be for the better or the worse, the worse being it becomes even more impossible to keep tabs on the states of barriers and such; There's also moving platforms that you can't really know what kind of magic carpet ride they'll take you on until you've tried activating them once. Even the usage of the new signboards to inflict bad prose is yet another way to make your Jetpack 2 level that much worse than it could otherwise have been.
There are other, ubiquitous changes to the game's workings. The most obvious one is the newfangled physics engine. This makes the game have a higher skill cap but also, as tends to happen, be far less predictable. Some custom levels would simply get stuck when physics objects caused a jam somewhere they shouldn't have. You can even get squeezed to death between them! What's worse, you can even die to hitting your head JUST too hard, which goes against the straightforward spirit of the first game and amounts to nothing good, IMHO. The enemies, too, can sometimes glitch through walls, or just get stuck. The physics are, thus, a mixed bag.
In addition to this, you now can jump even when there is fuel in the tank, which makes sense, and hop on and off rolling balls, which is nice. For some reason, the trackbots feel like they've... lost track of you. Some old enemies are missing from the base levels completely with paltry substitutes. There's a few other points of divergence that will catch old players off-guard like how crates no longer phase instantly (I guess so it's less likely to cause it by accident?). I can't not bring up all the achievements/par times/treasure/idols/talismans/ratings, because they all seem to form one big whirlwind of overly complexity that you wish had been honed into something more focused. It's not even clear how your score is formulated between all of this stuff even if you did find yourself caring.
All in all, it's a fair summary of the changes in Jetpack 2 to say it's been modernized in some respectable ways, but now takes more prudence than ever on the armchair architect's part to ensure a good time on the player's, except for the younger audience, let's grant it. Speaking of architects, I did also try a lot of the custom levels. They're ostensibly divided into works-in-progress and not-works-in-progress but... you get the picture... there are no guarantees of any kind. There's no ratings, no comments, no recommendations... your best bet is to try to find an author that's made one decent level and hope they've made a few more beyond it. At least you can filter by name. As of writing this, I could no longer access other users' levels at all, which is supposed to be available in the level editor menu. This can't be caused by an update since there haven't been any since launch day (and it's a separate download anyway) so it should be possible to recover from, simply by reinstalling, but this is unfortunately just one in a list of bugs and inconveniences all recalling and highlighting the superior ease-of-use of your halcyon days. Recommended for those with a creative vein, or if you want to dig out the best user-made levels. Thumbs up!
- There's no real reason to play the campaign on the hardest setting with no checkpoints or second chances: you'll just get screwed over by the traps and feel bad.
- If you just care about making progress, all you need is to pick up the idol in most levels and you're good to go.
- Luckily there's a "high contrast mode" that I immediately fell in love with. Also present is an option to remove some of the debris, further suggesting I'm not the only one finding the visuals difficult to cognize.
- I don't know how to quit the game either. Just hit ALT-ENTER and go through the Task Manager I guess?
- I also don't know why the game isn't on Steam despite having been Greenlit earlier. You can seemingly only buy it on the site linked below.
Reviewed by: LotBlind